How to Improve your Performance and Have an Injury-free Ski!
It took just one hailstorm in Sydney to get me itching to ski this season. Most of us ski just a few times each year, and don’t get ourselves conditioned to ski. Try these easy ski-preparation exercises leading up to your ski holiday!
Step 1: Check your Alignment
Start by preparing how you stand. Draw a mark on the centre of each kneecap and stand in front of a mirror. The mark should be directly above your second toe. Adjust your feet and knees until they are. Do a half squat, keeping the marks above your second toes, then stand back up.
Try lunging forward with one leg, keeping the mark above your second toe, then stand back up and repeat with the other leg.
Repeat each exercise 30 times, squatting lower and lunging a little further forward each time.
Practice will help you align your legs properly to ski, and get you holding an edge like a pro. If you are having difficulty with these exercises, it may mean you need the canting adjusted on your ski boots.
Step 2: How’s your Balance?
Most skiers put too much weight on the back of the ski. Keeping your weight even from front to back will give you more control and a faster ride. It’s great to practice weight-bearing on a balance board, bosu or duradisc.
Try this exercise on solid ground. Stand on one leg, hugging the other leg into your chest with both hands. Make sure that the centre of your kneecap is over your second toe. Get the weight on your toes the same as the weight on your heels. Once you feel steady, extend the leg and your arms behind you, keeping the weight even on toes and heels, then return to your starting position.
Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Progress to the Arabesque position, extending the leg straight behind you, with one arm extended in front. Then return to the starting position.
Step 3: Strengthening Glutes & Quads
No sport uses Gluteus Medius as much as skiing. Good control of the hips includes having strong glute meds, and this is essential for your turns.
Stand side on to a wall, with your hands on your hips. Lift the knee closest to the wall. Pushing this knee into the wall will make the glutes contract on your standing leg. Maintain your alignment and balance throughout this exercise.
Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 8-10 times each side.
To progress this exercise further, try turning out the foot you are standing on, against the resistance of the floor.
Your quads are the workhorses of your skiing. You need strength and endurance in these muscles.
Stand with one leg on a step and the step the other down towards the floor in front of you. Stop before your foot actually hits the floor and return to your starting position.
Repeat 10-15 times and do 3 sets on each leg. Maintain your alignment and balance. Move to a higher step and add weights to progress this exercise when you’re ready.
Step 4: Endurance
The fitter you are, the longer you will enjoy your day on the slopes. That chair ride up only lets you recover so much!
Running, skipping, cycling or using an elliptical trainer as often as you can – at least every second day – is the easiest way to improve your baseline fitness and endurance.
If you have the right space and equipment, in-line skating uses many of the same muscles and techniques as skiing. Jumping exercises get the heart pumping and help prepare for those moguls. Find a sturdy, low box that you can stand on, and give yourself lots of room. (Step aerobic steps are great for this.)
Start by standing feet together on the box, and stepping one leg sideways until it touches the ground, then return to both feet together on the box. Step to the other side. Repeat 30 times to each side, and keep your alignment and balance as you go.
Once you’ve mastered this exercise, keep your feet together and jump both feet to the floor on one side, then back onto the box, then both feet to the other side. Repeat 30 times on each side.
Increase the height of the box, and try jumping forward and back when you can.
Step 5: Improve your Flexibility
Flexibility is particularly important when you are doing tricks or racing, and it is vital that you stretch any muscle that feels tight before and after your day on the slopes, especially as fatigue and the cold will make your muscles tighten up.
A good stretch for your calf muscles can be achieved by using a low wedge (an old cutting board against a brick or similar will do the job.) Angle the wedge down towards a wall, and stand with your back against the wall. Hold this position for 1-3 minutes with your legs straight (gastrocnemius), and then repeat with your legs a little bent to reach your deeper calf muscles (soleus).
Your hip flexors will also need a good stretch after skiing. On your knees, lunge on leg forward with your pelvis tucked under, and then stretch the arm on that side over. Hold for 20 seconds, and repeat on both sides.
A simple quad stretch will also assist your muscle recovery after skiing. You can use a wall or table to support you. Stand up tall on one leg.
Bend the other leg and reach the foot up behind you. Hold onto your foot and try to keep your knees together. Hold for 20 seconds, and repeat on both sides.
If you follow these 5 guidelines, your performance will improve on the slopes this season, and you are much less likely to suffer injuries. Prevention is always better than cure! If you have any trouble with these exercises, or would like to improve your performance further, speak to your Physiotherapist.
At PPFC, our resident Skiing Physio is Alex Sherborne. Call to make an appointment with him on 02 9399 7399.